AN ALTERNATIVE ANALYSIS ON THE ECONOMIC SYSTEM OF AGRARIAN SECTOR
By Dr. Aravind Sinha.
Politically too, the debate and clash of ideas are continuing on the issue because the political parties are required to clearly spell out their agrarian policies to the people. There is a serious controversy among the left parties and communist alliances on this is issue. All of them placed their views, the agrarian policies before the people in accordance with their own analysis and thinkings. More importantly, it is curious to note that the debate among them is taking place in the name of land reforms. The Communists and the Socialist Parties had taken up the programmes of land reforms. Different planners and intellectuals too had taken up and are talking about the programmes for the development of agriculture and poverty alleviation. This entire exercise is centered around the question, what is the extent of surplus land. Similarly, their discussion is centered around the purpose of Tenancy Act and the Minimum Wages Act in the agrarian sector. The Land Reform Acts were enacted in many parts of our country. While the congress had implemented the land reforms in its own way, the socialist and left parties too had implemented them in their own way. Even then, the poverty was not eradicated in the villages. No where the development had reached closer to the agrarian sector. Of course, there was some development, indeed. But it was the zamindars and rich peasants who benefited most from it. Even today, a major part of the people are in the vicious circle of backwardness and crisis. Therefore, there is every need today to review the past experiences of land reforms and understand the reasons for the backwardness of agrarian sector. There is need to understand why the development of agrarian sector still remains an unresolved question.
The main reason for the failure of the advocated or implemented land reforms lie in the fact that the land reform programmes were so far viewed in total separation from the ruling system and the socio-economic plans of the country. It is exactly at this point the limitations of parliamentary left parties too become clear. This is the point where even the pundits fail in their analyses and attempts. Any land reform programmes in the present socio-economic and political system, how so ever revolutionary they might appear to be, would ultimately be useful only to strengthen the capitalist ruling system existing today. The big capitalist and imperialist forces alone are cornering the benefits of agricultural production with the help of their control over the market system. Together with them, the corrupt and bribe taking personnel and the anti people officialdom are looting the common people in the villages by employing various illegal methods.
The revolutionary land reforms in some areas of the country can free the land from the land lords and the developed capitalists in the villages and give the same to the poor peasants. As a result of this, there would be some growth in the productivity of land. Yet, the capitalist class and the bureaucracy through their control over the administration, the political leaders, mafia, contractors who joined themselves in syndicates are swallowing the loins share of those products by dint of their control over the market. As a consequence, no worthwhile change is seen in the conditions of poor and landless peasants. Therefore, in the face of these conditions, it is very much necessary to see and understand the land reforms from the angle of administrative power and from the angle of market system. In the present system, an all round development of agrarian sector is not possible. Similarly, improving the lot of toiling people and poor peasants is not possible. They cannot also get the rights whatsoever. Therefore, we must the land reforms keeping in view the comprehensive development of peasants and agricultural labor, the present system of rule and the control of the general masses of people over the market.
2. Europe -Centered Analysis – Indian conditions:
In this context, no one has paid attention to one important point. It is an historic fact that our country was in the enslavement of British rulers for nearly 200 years. Our analysis was base on the historic materialist view point developed by Marx in the content of Europe. The neo Marxist thinkers and the Communist leaders had tried to see the Indian history from the lenses of European history.
Analyzing the European history, Marx said that the society had developed in the order of Primitive Communist Society, Slave Society and the Capitalist Society. He pointed out that these were the stages of social development. Many mistakes were committed because of the mechanical application of these historic stages of development of society to India and the attempt to understand the Indian Society. In Europe, the capitalist class led the democratic revolution against the feudal system. As a result, the societies there had transformed into capitalist societies. In India, the same capitalist class had defeated the feudal classes and established the British Empire. Since then, India continue as a colony for nearly 200 years. The need did not arise in European Society to reach or pass through these stages. For this reason, there is need for us to look in to the worst consequences of colonization of our country to understand the present situation.
3. A Comparative Analysis Of The Indian and European Societies:
The same capitalist class which crushed the feudal forces in its own country Britain and developed the productive forces and production in agricultural and industrial sectors along the capitalist lines and established the colonial system in India that suited its exploitation and oppression by colluding itself with the feudal forces instead of destroying them. For their own interests, the British capitalist class had linked the international market system to the feudal system in India and saw to it that the Indian situation is transformed into semi feudal and semi colonial relations. Through its colonial policy, it robbed the enormous wealth in India and took it away to England. It has exercised the monopoly over the trade here. It caused a serious destruction to the cottage industry in India. Not only this, it colluded with the feudal classes in India. It worked with totally destroying the local productive forces in India rather than developing them. There is no need for us now to more deeply dwell on these questions. But we must correctly understand that our society was reduced to the present ugly state as a consequence of the Colonial exploitation. The Indian society which had emerged and stands before us since the departure of British is in no way comparable with any social system in Europe. Not only this, The Indian Society had taken a form different from what it existed here earlier. Neither it developed into a capitalist society as was the case with the capitalist systems in Europe nor the feudal system here is a adoption of feudal system that existed in the Western Countries.
There exists no idea of “competition” in the capitalist system that came into vogue here to speed up the capitalist development. Similarly, it also does not contain the nature of transforming the semi feudal relations into capitalist production relations. There is nothing here like the fast developing productive forces.
On the other side, the landlord classes here could not cherish the feelings of respect enjoyed by the rulers ( because, the British Empire had reduced them into their puppets). In the same way, there existed no enthusiasm and interest among them towards the political, economic and social factors. The life as the British Slaves for nearly 200 years and their exploitation and oppression on common people had turned the mental state of feudal classes here into parasitic and reactionary one.
In England, the land lord classes gave priority to develop the market system, and to transform and develop the agriculture and feudalism into a capitalist system. In this process, it had to displace the peasantry from the land and compel them to migrate to the cities as laborers. But this process had played an important role in the development of capitalism there.
As Mao assessed the Chinese situation, the big capitalists in China play the role of imperialist compradors. As compared to China, the big capitalists and the land lord classes in our country had bent themselves more subserviently many times. The same sorry state continues even today.
4. Agrarian Problems in India after the 'Independence':
We must understand the agrarian problems today only in this historical background. Since the Britishers had transferred power in 1947 there are serious controversies on the question of agrarian policy. The zamindars and other landlord classes (they include the erstwhile Rajahs too) wished not only to retain their economic,political and social statues intact, but also to get proper recognition for the same. The princes and Estates had come only reluctantly under the control of Indian Govt. The big capitalists – who were compradors wished the development of capitalism in agriculture but without hurting their feudal allies. On the other side, the overwhelming masses of workers and peasants, who had come from the dalits and backward classes wished a total destruction of semi feudal production relations. In these conditions the protests of peasants and agriculture labor had erupted in various areas of the country. In many areas, they had taken the form of serious movements. Tebhag, Telangana movements, the peasant revolts in Manipur and Tripura are some important instances of them. A serious thinking of leading the society towards socialism was inherent in these peasant movements.The parties such as Swatantra Party, Jana Sang (old name of BJP) and Congress represented the interests of landlord, bourgeoisie classes. The Communist, Socialist and Left Parties stood by the working class and peasants and provided the leadership to the anti feudal struggles. There is also serious anger at the pseudo democracy and caste discrimination. It manifested in the streams of thought represented by Dr. Ambedkar and Ram Manohar Lohia. Zamindari system was abolished as a result of peasant movements led by the left forces. The debate on the land reforms gained momentum. In many areas, right in 1950s, the land reform laws were enacted. Frightened by the waves of peasant movements that spread like a priare fire after the 1967 Naxalbari Revolt, the big Bourgeoisie led by Indira Gandhi had announced several land reforms. Abolition of Privy purses too was only a part of these moves. The Land Ceiling Acts and Minimum Wages Acts were promulgated through out the country. Along with them came Garibi Hatao, socialism and such like slogans. The Nationalization of Banks and Coal mines were brought. Internally, CPI and internationally the Soviet Union too lauded these moves of Indira Gandhi as an advance towards socialism. They had created the illusion that the dream of toiling people about Socialist system was becoming a reality before their own eyes by peaceful means. They did not stop at this. They declared that the semi feudal relations had disappeared in agriculture. Yet, the protests of peasants and agriculture labor are continuing even today in the agrarian sector under the leadership of revolutionary parties and other left parties.
5. A Trishanku Socio-Economic Planning:Even after 60 years since the Britishers had left our country we are faced with the conditions where social classes and political forces are continuing today. The rulers here are not at all in a position to claim successes in the implementation of their policies. We can not also say that the people had achieved the development aspired by them. The present situation is oscillating somewhere in the middle. The agrarian sector had not, to any extent, changed into a capitalist system. The production in the rural areas is not taking place in big capitalist farms with the use of modern technology and machines. This is one example for this. The land had not come into the hands of the tillers in our country as demanded in the slogan, “land to the tiller”. The agrarian revolution is not yet powerful. As a result the toiling people did not gain power by the overthrowing the present system.
The ruling class is not so powerful as to be able to impose a fascist rule.
5. 1: Petty Mode of Production System:
There is need to carefully and properly analyze and understand the trishanku socio-economic situation prevailing in the country. This petty mode of production is one important form of this trishanku system. Small holdings in the agrarian sector had come into the hands of small and poor peasants under the pressure of powerful peasant movements and land reforms. The need of growing population also had speed ed up the process of decentralization of land. Marx said that the production even in this system was based on the fragmentation of land into tiniest holdings. Moreover, he analyzed that the production even in this system was based on the fragmentation of land into tiniest holdings. Moreover, he analyzed that the method such as this will be in vogue only where the old production relations are still in existence.(Capital. Vol.1, P713)
He pointed out that this production system had continued at a time when the feudal system was on its death bed in London. In no time, these production systems which were the remnants of feudal system got destroyed and the capitalist production system had replaced them. Now the feudal systems seems to be in a declined and moribund state. At the same time, a most serious state of struggle between the capitalist-imperialist forces for economic and social progress is before us. As a result, the semi feudal production relations continue to exist even today. But this system in the production is a remnant of it.
According to the Center of Monitoring Indian Academy, July 1996, and the statistics of 8th, 26th and 37th rounds of study conducted by the NSS, there were 51.64 percent of land holdings of less than 5 acres throughout the country in 1953-54. The total land under such holdings was 3 crores, 39 lakhs and 56 acres. This land constituted only 16.71 percent of total agricultural land in the country. The number of land holdings of this kind had gone up to 8 crores, 24 lakhs and 68 thousands in 1990-91,i.e., after about 40 years. Their entire land had gone up to 13 crores, 32 lakhs, 92 thousands and 500 acres. This land constituted 32.2 percent in the entire agricultural land in the country. It means that the number of holdings of less than 5 acres had phenomenally grown in the course of time in the last nearly agricultural land in their possession too had increase more than the double.
In the same way, if we include even those with 10 acres holdings in small and marginal production system, we find that their number in 1953-54 was 4 crores, 23 lakhs, 59 thousands.(64.57 percent of the entire number). The agricultural land in their possession was 11 crores, 15 lakhs and 60 thousand acres(this was 36 percent in the total agricultural land ). These figures had gone up by 1990-91 from 9 crores, 59 lakhs, 81 thousand acres of holdings(91.2 percent) and the agricultural land was 20 crores, 91 lakhs, 67 thousands and 500 acres(54.5 percent).
5. 2: Three Parts of Small and Marginal Agricultural Production System:
The state of small production is clear from the above statistics. India can be divided into three parts on a broader basis in the light of production systems in agriculture. Part one: The area developed because of the use of capitalist methods of production. The dominance of capitalist system in the relations of production can be said to be the agricultural areas of this type. Part two: The capitalist methods are used in these areas, but they are still surrounded by the semi feudal relations of production. Part three: Areas where different adivasi communities and other adivasis are continuing to pursue the age old methods of production. But we can notice in most of these areas can admixture of three methods in varying ratios. At the same time, we must keep in mind that one or other of these three methods being dominant in the main. Punjab, Haryana, Western UP, Gujarat, some developed areas of Maharashtra and coastal areas of AP come under the areas of first type. Bihar, greater part of land in UP, MP, Rajastan, etc. , come under the second type of production method. Bihar, MP, Odisha, WB and Jharkhand areas, forest and tribal areas of AP Maharashtra, greater part of North East come under the third type of production method.
After a stage, the Green revolution came to a halt. As a result, the rate of capitalist mode of production had also slowed down. We have a criteria to judge whether an area is capitalistically developed area or a backward one. In the developed areas, it is the big farmers who take the land from the small and marginal farmers on lease. But in the areas where the semi feudal relations of production are in vogue it is the small and marginal farmers who take the land on lease from the landlords. We can also notice that the labor from the areas of backward production relations migrating to the developed areas in search of work. In the academic language, these developed areas are also called as the areas of 'labor exploitation'. Such a migration of 'labor exploitation' areas especially for the unskilled jobs will be taking place in agrarian sector as well as other unorganized job sectors.
Those who think that the capitalist mode of development is playing a dominant role in the present agrarian sector argue that the land less poor labor are in greater number in the villages. Such a thing happens only when the capitalist production system had developed. Therefore, they argue that the capitalist production system is dominant in our country. But here one important point must be taken note of. In our country, a social system linked with the caste system is well entrenched in the villages. As a result, since ages, there existed the landless labor in the villages. They were being used not only for other services but also, at times, as and when needed for agricultural work. After the Britishers came to India, the rural cottage industries faced a closure as a consequence of their colonial policy. As a result except in agriculture, the number of laboring people were come down to a great extent in rest of other sectors.
As per the study of Amiyakumar Bagchi, the number of workers employed in the cottage industries in some districts of Bihar in 1809-1901 had came down from 18.6 percent to 8.5 percent. The laboring masses who lost work in their own sectors were forcibly turned into agricultural sector. Similarly, the study made by Dharma Kumar in in South India point out that the peasants and agricultural labors who were 15.17 percent of the entire population had grown into 27-27 percent by the end of 19th century. From these facts, we can realize that it is not correct to say that the number of peasants and agricultural labor in the villages had grown up only because of capitalist development in agriculture. Our agrarian sector is not developing fully from the angle of capitalist production system and owing to the imperialist loot, these two are at the root of present situation.
Those who argue that the capitalist method of production had gained an upper hand in out agricultural production say in support of their argument that the agricultural production in our is tuned particularly to the market system. They argue that the production in accordance with the market means the agriculture had, in the main, transformed into a capitalist production system. But it must be noted in this context that except a fistful of capitalists, zamindars, landlords and rich peasants, rest of the majority of peasants in the agricultural production, in reality, are producing for the purpose of their own consumption. But owing to the difference between the old, nature based economic system and todays economic system, the peasants who were earlier exchanging the products of their labor with the locally produced consumer goods (cloth, shoe, medicines etc..)and thus utilizing the fruits of their labor locally, today, when the conditions of entire society are linked with the market, the peasants are forced to sell away a part of the grain produced by them to buy the goods ( produced by the modern industries ) needed by then. Thus the present capitalist market system acts like an intermediary in the distribution and utilization of the agricultural products and the industrial goods. With the control of this market system and unevenness in the utilization the big capitalists in the country and the foreign countries will be subjecting the agrarian sector to excessive plunder. Therefore, the role of capitalist production system in the agrarian sector is extremely limited. As a result, this sector is not yet mechanized. No big capitalist agricultural farms had developed in the country.
In the agricultural fields of adivasis, the adivasis are required to sell a part of the crop produced by them in the market to meet their requirements. They are also required to sell the forest produce (herbs, plants used in the preparation of medicines, etc) collected by them in the market. They buy the goods needed by them. Can we say this that the adivasis are having the capitalist relations of production?. The global marketing system under the imperialism today is showing its Vishwaroop by making the undeveloped or just developing economic systems in all areas an integral part and merging them in itself. Through the unequal utilization thus emerged, the world market system is subjecting the various societies and economic systems to ruthless exploitation. The world market economy is of the nature of obstructing the economic development of developed countries. Not only this; it stagnates those countries with in the frame of their own economic and social backwardness. Therefore, it will be a grave mistake to say that taking a portion of agricultural produce to the market is a pointer to the capitalist production system gaining an upper hand in the agrarian sector. We may also notice the capitalist mode of development coming up as a small island in the midst of the undeveloped areas surrounding it as an ocean. But there is no need to give undue importance to it.
6. Difference Between the European and Indian Feudalism:
In order to understand the Indian situation, especially the agrarian situation, it is necessary to understand some of the specific features of Indian feudal system. It is definitely different from the European feudal system. The feudal system in our country had been continuing since past in the form of feudal oppression, collection of Levies from the peasants and in the form of collection of exorbitant taxes from the landed property. In the period of Mughal rule, the officials under the king were given the largest areas of Jagirs. Such officials were called as Jagirdars or Munsabs. The word Munsab was a pointer to their status in the feudal system. Every Munsab was being paid a definite amount of salary. It was called “jath”. Similarly, they were taking the number of horse riders in the army into consideration. The king was determining their number and salary. The king was changing the areas under a jagirdar and Munsab. They had the power only to collect the taxes and maintain the armies. They had nothing to do with the local administration. The jurisdictions of local administration are called as Circars and Paraganas. It was the king who was deciding and appointing both of them. Thus, in the Mughal darbar, there existed a feudal officialdom (as in Europe) which had no right whatsoever over the land. They were getting a share in the taxes and other collections from the peasants by dint of the position they enjoyed from their post and powers. 445 Munsabs who occupied the highest position in the Mughal darbar wee getting 61 percent of the total income deposited in the Mughal treasury. Among them, just 68 princes and other family members were getting 36.6 percent. 7553 Munsabdars down below taken together were getting only 25-30 percent from the Govt.s' income. The income of each one of them was less than 500 Jaths.(Ref: Essays in Indian History – Irfan Habib, P.97). As DD Kosambi said, the feudalism in India was imposed from above and established from below.
Those from the influential castes, classes and other prominent family men in different areas and concerned areas, by consolidating their own authorities were acquiring the power from the Munsabs to collect the land revenues and taxes in their areas. This class had established itself as zamindars. Buying and selling of zamindars was also taking place in this period. However , it does not mean the buying and selling the lands. It was only the “power” to collect taxes on behalf of the king that was open for buying and selling. The right over the land remained with the peasants alone. Clashes were taking place between the communities of castes and classes in accordance with their local influences. The old powerful communities were being replaced by the powerful communities. This process is continuing.
The division among the different castes is another special feature of Indian society. In this system, the work division is based on castes in the society. As a result, those belonging to the upper castes are subjecting the toiling people of the backward classes to economic exploitation. This exploitation of labor was not happening in accordance with the social religious and Dharma beliefs. As a consequence, the exploiting system continues intact despite the fall of Empires and Kingdoms.
The Indian feudalism is undoubtedly different from the European feudalism. Because, in England and other European countries, the landlords were cultivating the large areas of lands through the peasants who were their serfs and enjoying the entire crop they produced. They alone had the right over the cultivated land. Only a smallest piece of land which was enough to take their life was being given to these serf peasants. Through their policy of “permanent settlement”, the Britishers sought to establish that kind of feudalism in India. We are still paying the price for this. By dint of British domination, the sale and purchase, i.e., market system was imposed on the land.
7. Bihar Situation:
An analysis of Bihar society is enough to understand the situation of backward areas in our country. Let us examine its nature. Here the agriculture is in a backward state. The main reason for this, the cultivation is not due in big agricultural farms. Most of the peasants are suffering serious losses because of floods and droughts. Overwhelming masses of peasants and labor are deep in the quagmire of debts. In a civil society enmeshed in backwardness they are bonded with the money lenders and other rich in the villages. As a consequence of the situation created by the combination of all these conditions, they are locked in the frame of powerful wealthy classes in the villages and in the semi feudal socio -economic relations. In their efforts to free themselves from these shackles, more than 50 lakh labor in Bihar left their own areas, migrated to other states to sell away their labor there and thus turned themselves into migrant labor. The semi feudal exploitation against the poor and landless peasants is continuing even now in several forms in the villages. The tenancy system, low wages, exorbitant rates of exploitation is continuing against the labor engaged in cultivation in few pockets where the capitalist methods had developed to an extent. As we already noted, the capitalists and imperialist forces are subjecting the peasants engaged in agriculture production to serve exploitation by using their control over the market system. The same classes are exercising their control over the consumer goods and the goods that are used in the agricultural activities(seeds, fertilizers, etc.). A small portion of wealth thus amassed through the Govt. for the development of agriculture sector is being used through the Govt. for the development of agriculture and the improvement of living conditions of the peasants. But the political leaders, officials, contractors and mafia who are freely indulging in various scams and corrupt schemes distributing this money among themselves by manipulating these schemes. These classes formed a nexus to loot the Govt. money. Again, it is usual for the same people joining together to suppress the people who raise their voice against this unbearable exploitation. The social classes having a hold over the local Govt. are gobbling a loins share of this loot. It had become quite normal today for them to mobilize the people from their own castes and communities, utilize the services of goondas and other anti-social forces and win the elections. Once elected, they are freely engaging themselves in looting the Govt.s money with the help of corrupt officials, contractors and criminal gangs. In Bihar, they had developed a full-scale exploiting system for themselves. This exploitation had reached every nook and corner. The exploitation of this kind is more rampant in Bihar than in all other areas. The reason for this lies in the backwardness of people of these areas more than of the people in any other area. Fodder scam is one example for this. Together with this, a big number of political leaders, helped by the criminals like the rowdies and goondas are massively collecting money from the traders, industrialists, peasants, shopkeepers and persons in different professions (doctor, engineers, etc.). Kidnapping for money had become a fetching profession today. These looters are able to do this freely because they are not required not only to fear about Govt. and police but also are protected by them. The political leaders and the Govt. officials are getting their own shares in this loot.
8. State Feudalism
This process which is combined with the exploitation and oppression is also a form of feudalism. Those belonging to the upper castes had begun the feudalism of state when they were exercising the hold. Later, those from backward classes had also further hastened it when they came to power. The semi feudal process of exploitation can be called as the state feudalism. But when viewed directly, the question arises, what is the place of this class in the agricultural production system? This is the result of viewing the feudalism with an Eurocentric approach. Basing itself on the caste, the feudal system is still maintaining its hold in our country. Mao said that the new form of its continuity, the influence of ideas and culture also creates the class. It is proved in this case.
Mao said, “the capitalist system had come to an end as a result of Socialist Revolution in China. But, capitalism still exists in the society as well as inside the Communist Party in the form of ideas.” He also said that the contradiction between the proletariat and the capitalist class is the principal contradiction in China and it manifests and continues itself inside the party in the form of clash between the socialist ideas and capitalist ideas. At the time of Cultural Revolution, Mao also warned that the capitalist system will be restored in China if the people fail to get rid off the capitalist system and culture from their ideas. The contemporary history is a witness to the correctness of what Mao had apprehended. Today, a powerful capitalist class got itself reestablished in China.
Similarly, a new feudal class had emerged in our country too under the influence of feudal ideas, culture and caste system. The feudal system which was pushed out from the land and caste by the Left, Naxalites and Lohiaites had taken this new form. Ultimately, it is the peasants and the toiling masses of rural poor who suffer most from the exploitation and oppression of this new form. Because, the entire process is only taking place within the frame of capitalist system. Therefore, it is taking the form of a semi feudal system. There is need to analyses and understand this process more deeply and formulate a way to struggle against it. But this way can be found only when view that agrarian question from the above mentioned approach.
This Article is Published in All India Workers, Peasants and Agricultural Labor Sammelan Souvenir.